Úlla na Folla



rating: +23+x

THE LIBRARY


In a melancholic, dusty corner of the Library, a man once simply known as L.S. sat quietly, watching what was once the Archives slowly succumb to the darkened clutches of the night. The remaining books decayed to nothing short of dust before his eyes, while the booming heartbeat of the once mighty and proud Yggdrasil faded away.

In the corner of his eye, he caught a glimpse of the last refugees fleeing hurriedly from the Library, hopping recklessly into any free-use Ways they could reach. At the end of the line, a dead end waited for them, but they were not aware of this. At best, they would reach another world doomed to shade, one in which the Sun would set a little bit later.

The Library was always a quiet place. A caring home to which any Wanderer could turn to in times of need. It had always been free of dream-dwellers, bottom-feeders, or, for the record, deities. But Yvith had, through brute force, tore her way inside the Archives, grasping with her darkened hand any book left to defile, any shelf left to wither.

The Hand had never faced such an opponent. In the past, the Library had its own perpetrators, its traitors, its burglars, its Neverwere. But such an opponent, one god from the Astral Realm, they had never faced before. And thus was birthed their despair when they left the Library, riding the Ways to the sunny embrace of the Garden.

In front of him, some of the last shelves dipped headfirst into the waves of nil. The caring roots of Ygdrassil, the still-beating heart of the Library, dimmed as they writhed, until they withered away, much like everything else they once preserved. The ones that were still left turned back into the Tree‘s chamber. He hoped, at least, these ones would live to tell the tale.

And at last, he decided the time had come. His finger gently touched the spine of a book perched in a shelf nearing the end of its tall tales. The golden symbol carved onto its cover shone brightly, illuminating the immediate area with the warm glow of an aestival Sun. Before him, space and time themselves ripped apart — if there were any, in the Library — and a ghastly entrance to a Rotting Way opened up. At the finish line, awaited the magical expanse of the Garden.

He strapped his titular mask on his face, and stepped through the gate.


THE GARDEN


Arriving at the end of the falling Way, his eyes beheld the vastness of the beautiful Garden. It was the only sunny place left in creation, outside of the darkness's reach. A verdant garden laid itself out across the vast plains, lush with all manner of flora both familiar and hitherto unknown, some blooming profusely while others stood tall, canopies rippling in the breeze. Before him walked ethereal mirages of the Oneiroi, apparatuses of clockwork, refugees from countless worlds succumbed to the night, rushing to the only safe haven left in existence. Looking upwards, he saw the majestic sight of the Tree of Life, the crown jewel of the Garden. Slithering between its countless roots was the Serpent, looking down at the survivors of the eternal night.

He walked on the outer rim of the Garden, reaching what was always his favourite tree. Nobody recognised him, nobody watched him. Not anymore. He sat down, and rested under its twenty-four branches, softly embracing the kind, metaphorical hug the Garden offered to its residents.

From within the bushes, he saw a man walk. He wore a strange suit, sleek, metallic, nearly futuristic. On his helmet shined a green visor, alarming him of anything nearby. On his chestplate, the marking of the grand Ygdrassil rested. The man approached him, and held out his hand. Sweat was dripping down on his helmet, a sign of anxiety, of hurry. But why here? Why in the Garden?

“One of the Surveyors, I presume? Those who ponder the roots of the Greater Ygdrassil.”

“Oh, uh, yeah. So, er, could you please come with me for a moment? We need to confirm your identity. See, wearing something with antimemetic properties as powerful as that mask of yours is not the best thing you could do upon entry in the Garden. So, would you be so kind as to follow me to the Serpent?”

“Yes, indeed. But, I would prefer to keep my identity secret. Would the Serpent be amenable to an alias?” As he uttered these words, a thought flashed across his mind. Don't be reckless, L.S. You know you're not going to be running away from the Serpent forever.

“Nevermind. I- I’ll just follow you.”

“Oh, thank you so much. I’ve got a really hard time dealing with the secretive guys usuall-“ He suddenly stopped, as more sweat dripped down his visor. His breath became heavy, his movements slow. He seemed scared. But the man could not figure why. “Wait, no. No no no no. Not now. Why does it always happen now? Come on! Why can’t I get a break? I don’t wanna go back to that place where it’s always dark-“

And as he uttered these words, he disappeared in a flash of light, travelling towards another, unknown, eternally moonlit world.


XEROPHYLLA

The figure of a man stood behind an old, knocked-up pub, hiding in a darkened alleyway. He held a cat in his embrace, its gentle purring comforting the panicked web of thoughts that plagued his mind. A few feet behind him, the ghouls of the night marched forwards, chanting whatever vexing arcana their overlord had stolen from the mouth of the Dragon. He tried to touch the pub‘s aged, torn wall. He tried again. And again. And again. The man was trying to escape. His heart beat like a drumroll, his breath got faster and faster as he attempted to complete spell after spell, all in an attempt to run away to whatever foreign dimension he could reach. As he tried to carve out the sign that would lead him to her, a bright flash cut through the fog of the night that tightened around him like a noose. From the flash, emerged a reluctant hopper. He wore a strange, metallic suit, reflecting the moonlight high above. On his chest was printed the logo of a tree.

“Oh, uh…hey there. Sorry if this is a bad time, but, er, might I ask where I am? And who you are?"

Silence engulfed them for a moment, as Magnus stood shocked at the sight of the man.

“Heavens above. Where did you come from, monsieur? We are in Xerophylla. I am Magnus. Magnus Kinslow. Knowledge-broker. I am, sad to say, partially responsible for this mess. This,” He paused, and mildly jerked his head to the cat in his arms. “Is Josephine. My cat.”

The cat looked up at the suited man, initially spooked by his sudden appearance and imposing figure. In the span of a few seconds, however, it softened up, and purred happily at him.

“I’m… Agent Hopper. Ygdrassil Surveyor, tedious Garden worker. Uhm,” He worriedly looked up at the starlit sky above him. “No. Come on! It’s dark again. I’m tired of this, every time I teleport I just end up- whatever. You don't wanna hear it. So…is this place safe? Can I just wait somewhere until I teleport back to the Garden?”

Magnus briefly looked at the other side of the alleyway. The ghouls had noticed them. They were making a run for them, armed with their rotten, handmade weapons, or merely rushing recklessly with their teeth. They chanted incomprehensible spells. Some gurgled, some succumbed to their bizarre spasms as they rushed. Oozes and blood dripped down from their unhinged maws, defiling the pavement as they splattered.

“That is not the case. So, will you come along, or do you prefer to get feasted on? They can chew through steel.”

“Yeah, I’d prefer not to get eaten alive. So, which way?” as he finished his sentence, he looked to the crumbling wall of the pub. The sound of footsteps echoed through it. “…Nevermind.”

“Do not be afraid. He should be here, quite soon. Actually, right about…”

The ghouls were now only a few feet away from them. As one readied its freakish fangs to snap at Hopper ‘s neck, a rock came tumbling down from the roof of a nearby building. It landed on the ghouls in front of them, squashing them to a disgusting, bloody puddle. The rest were blown away by the tremendous might of the impact.

“Now.”

Cracks formed on the rock's surface, giving way to larger fissures and fractures. As it fell apart, the alleyway shook as if a storm were blowing through, abruptly ceasing as if to herald the arrival of the man stepping out of the rubble.

He had long, bright, blonde hair that reached to his waist. He was dressed in vaguely Sumerian clothing, and an array of jade tattoos covered his darkened, grey skin. His muscles nearly tore through the clothing. In a belt at his waist, a long, razor-edged, jade blade glowed through the night. He unsheathed it, waiting for the next few ghouls to come running towards him.

A few of them rushed towards him, hands extended, maws widely open, old, rusty weapons drawn, all aiming for his neck. He swung his majestic blade in a pinpoint arc, robbing the husks of their heads, and of their grim life. Swing after swing, drop after drop of blood, he cleared his way through the wail of husks. He turned, and looked back at the men.

“Hello, Magnus.”

“Welcome. I was sure you would come. You need to get some fresh air once in a while, too."

“Uh…sorry, but who are you?” asked Hopper curiously. The man was abstractly familiar, although he could not exactly remember him.

“Abel.”

Another ghoul jumped for his neck, tumbling down from a nearby window. As it rushed down on him, he thrusted his blade into the soon-to-be-cadaver‘s mouth. The blade passed through its mouth, its glowing edge showing up from the other side of its head. Its body limped, and it fell to the floor.

Abel-Ab-Leshal.

“You mean you're the Abel? Like, murdered and all tha-?"

"Yes. I'd prefer you did not talk about that." Abel gave him a cold, emotionless stare, which likely meant he would've disembowelled him right there and then if it weren't for Magnus.

"Uh..and you know each other?" said Hopper through gritted teeth.

“I met this sir in one of my many travels. He was a warrior, once. A protector, but not a traitor, as his brother was.” replied Magnus.

Abel winced mildly at this mention, his face becoming rock solid for a moment. Hopper decided to continue no further on this, now quite fearful of Abel.

“…I see.”

“Where to now, Magnus? My time outside of that unforgiving lump of stone is limited, as you know.” spat Abel.

Magnus did not respond, and returned to the velvet inscription. As his hands spun rapidly through the veil of shadow, the briefest hint of what could only be blood dripped down menacingly from one of his veins.

“Why-?” asked Abel.

"You will get the gist of it soon."

Magnus gently finished scribing the last part of the ornate rune. A red, bloody flash briefly lit the darkened alleyway, and before the men appeared what was akin to a Way, but mightily unbounded by the mere confines of logic. Abel looked suspiciously at the entrance, for a moment, but his tension went away as he realized it was merely a path to a woman he well knew.

“So, will you join me, friends?” asked Magnus.

"Where to? Whatever made that Way like that, it doesn't seem safe." said Hopper, the worry in his voice growing steadily but surely.

Abel cast him another one of those glares, which this time meant "I doubt you ever even worked for the Serpent 's Hand, you cretin."

"It is much safer than these lands, I assure you. As to where to…" replied Magnus, in a slightly cryptic tone.

"To mademoiselle Hemilia, of course."

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License